A little over a week ago, dozens of women in Hollywood came forward and accused the powerful film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and harassment. Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie were among the most famous celebrities to allege harassment by Weinstein. Ashley Judd, Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, Lucia Evans, Cara Delevigne, and Léa Seydoux are among the more than 40 women who have come forward since. The New Yorker has a meticulously reported list of the women, mostly actresses, who allege Weinstein assaulted or mistreated them. The New York Times revealed to us how he kept his abuse under wraps for so many years. The women who have made public their allegations of being sexually harassed, assaulted, or raped by Weinstein are being (rightfully) universally recognized as courageous; each revelation makes the fact of his decades’-long success that much more sickening.
The bravery of Weinstein’s accusers has inspired people across social media platforms to share their stories of sexual harassment, assault and rape using the hashtag #metoo. (Most outlets have been crediting actress Alyssa Milano with sparking the movement, but as Ebony points out, a black woman, Tarana Burke, also started a campaign by the same name 10 years ago.)
Missing, however, from the bulk of the conversations around rape culture is a crucial wrinkle: People on the margins—women of color, poor women, undocumented women, and trans men and women—are uniquely impacted by sexual assault and harassment. In the last weeks, as countless articles and personal stories have been shared, many who spoke up seemed to be attempting to genuinely deepen the national conversation about the ubiquity of sexual assault. But to do that effectively, it is imperative to understand how a survivor’s identity shapes his or her ability to tell a boss, sue a company, or even write a Facebook post with the hashtag #metoo.
Women in marginalized communities are more likely to be victims of sexual assault and often face more hurdles to being believed when they come forward. Thirty-three percent of women who identified as multiracial reported being raped, as did 27 percent of Native women. Twenty-two percent of black women experienced rape, according to the CDC. Almost 19 percent of white women did. A Frontline investigation found that undocumented women face numerous challenges when it comes to reporting sexual assault. Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department investigated policing in Maricopa County, Arizona, where Joe Arpaio was sheriff. “Amid the investigation,” Frontline reports, “the DOJ said the sheriff’s office admitted that it had failed to properly investigate more than 400 cases of sexual assault and child molestation over a three-year period in 2007. In many of the cases, the sexual assault victims were undocumented Latinos or their children.” (Two months ago President Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, who had been found guilty of criminal contempt for the tactics he used to police Latinx people in the county.)